Compost Ingredients Ratio: What Is The Right Carbon To Nitrogen Ratio In Compost?

Compost Ingredients Ratio

There are several compost materials such as dead leaves, grass, twigs, dead animals, e.t.c. These materials break down into basic elements which are referred to as compost which is applied to the soil to nourish the soil, fertilize the plants as well as other uses.

Materials such as meat, cooked vegetables, e.t.c should never be used for compost (especially small-scale production) as they could attract animals which can disrupt the composting process and cause other hazards.

Compost piles are best limited to plant material. Compost consists of the brown materials (carbon) and the green materials (nitrogen) and the recommended and the ideal ratio is 2:1 respectively. Thus, compost having 4 layers of brown material should alternate with 2 layers of green materials.

1) Choosing the composting Ingredients

Every compost ingredient has a Carbon: Nitrogen ratio which differs. To build a balanced compost pile, ensure to use a mixture of ingredients rather than using just grass clippings or vegetable peels.

A variety of nitrogen-containing ingredients helps to boost the overall nutrient content while also helping to keep the Carbon: Nitrogen balanced.

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2) Moisture Content of Nitrogen

When we talk about moisture, nitrogen materials are a key source of moisture within a compost pile. You can collect most of your brown materials first before collecting your green materials if you choose to save up materials to build your pile at one time.

Doing this will help to keep your green materials moist and so, by the time you need them for your compost, they wouldn’t have shrunk too much.

3) Nitrogen vs Carbon

When it comes to storage, nitrogen materials are more difficult to store up than carbon materials. Grass clippings, vegetable peels, e.t.c which are nitrogen materials can begin to shrink and stink if stored for too long and which is not the same case with carbon materials.

However, when building your pile, add the nitrogen in the correct ratio to carbon which should be 1:2 respectively. Most kitchen wastes are green and this goes the same with yard waste.

Thus, piles built over time can end up becoming nitrogen-heavy. Examples of your brown materials (carbon) include shredded paper, cardboard, e.t.c. Carbon materials happen to be brown, dry, and bulky and they help with aeration as well as providing most of the volume of the finished compost.

Brown materials do not shrink or smell easily like green materials and can be stored for months before acquiring adequate green materials for your compost pile.

4) Moisture Content of Carbon

Carbon ingredients have a very low level of moisture which enables them to be stored for a long time and also helps in balancing out the moisture provided by nitrogen ingredients.

4) Cost

A great benefit of making your own compost at home is that you get to save enough money. However, if the cost for gathering your compost ingredients is more than buying a particular and related amount of compost, then it’s best to think over and perhaps, change your decision.

Most often, the green ingredients are not easy to obtain in large volumes and you might need about twenty 5-gallon buckets of green material to make a balanced 4’×4’×4′ compost pile. In case that is difficult to do, you can try other composting methods such as vermicomposting, trench composting, and mini tumblers. Brown materials are easy to obtain compared to green materials and relatively cheap.


The carbon to Nitrogen ratio is very significant in composting for many reasons, one of which is the fact that microorganisms require a good balance of carbon to nitrogen for them to remain active.

If the carbon to nitrogen ratio is high, it can lead to prolonged composting duration and if the carbon to nitrogen ratio is low, it can enhance nitrogen loss.